Thursday, 8 November 2012

Slow roast lamb with chickpea and pomegranate salad

Inspired by my meal at Kopapa, I decided to have a go at my own slow-cooked lamb dish. Slathered in a pomegranate molasses marinade, and roasted until it fell from the bone in tender chunks of caramelised meat, this went perfectly with a chickpea and pomegranate dish (roughly based on a recipe from my mother's Moro cookbook) and a refreshing salad of cucumber, pomegranate seeds, fresh coriander and lime juice.

Pomegranate Molasses Lamb


Shoulder of lamb
Pomegranate molasses
Garlic cloves (optional)

Place the lamb in a large dish, and drizzle generously with pomegranate molasses. Massage the molasses into the lamb, using as much as you need to ensure the meat is well coated. If you want to, cut slits into your lamb (this allows the pomegranate molasses to penetrate the meat), and place a clove of peeled garlic into each slit.

Leave your lamb to marinade in the fridge for a few hours, removing 30 minutes or so before cooking in order to bring the meat back to room temperature. Alternatively, if you're strapped for time, you can simply marinade the lamb for 15 minutes while the oven is heating up (this is what I did, and it didn't seem to have a particularly adverse affect on my finished dish!).

Preheat the oven to 150C. Transfer the lamb to a roasting dish, pouring over the pomegranate molasses marinade (and adding more as needed - I think I used about twice as much as was recommended by any recipe...which probably helped make up for my shorter marinading time). Add 100ml or so of water to the roasting tin, and cover with silver foil.

A 1kg joint of lamb should be cooked at 150C for 3 hours. For each additional 500g of meat, extend the cooking time by 20 minutes. [E.g. a 2kg joint would require 3 hours and 40 minutes.]
Remove your lamb from the oven, discarding the silver foil, and pour off any juices into a seperate bowl. Other recipes recommend that you leave the juices to cool for half an hour before skimming off any fat, and returning them to the roasting tin.

If you don't want to wait for half an hour, you can do what I did: pour off any grease (and remove any large chunks of fat from the surface of your lamb). Then add more pomegranate molasses and a dash more water to the roasting tin, before returning the lamb (uncovered this time) to the oven.

Turn the temperature up to 190C, and cook until the meat is nicely caramelised (around 30 minutes). Upon removing the lamb from the oven, stand for a few minutes to cool, before tearing into rough chunks with two forks (OK, or your fingers), and serving.

Chickpea and pomegranate salad


250 grams dried chickpeas
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
200 ml boiling water
One chicken stock cube (optional)
A few threads of saffron, infused in boiling water (according to instructions on packet)
Seeds of 1 large pomegranate
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Begin the day before, by soaking the chickpeas overnight in cold water. (If you don't have time to do this, you can always used canned chickpeas, but the dried ones are much nicer!). Rinse thoroughly, and prepare according to the instructions on the packet - I boiled mine for about an hour and a half, until tender.

Infuse a few strands of saffron in a tea cup with some boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and briefly fry the sliced garlic* before adding the drained chickpeas and pomegranate molasses. Add the 200ml of boiling water, the stock cube (if using - this isn't in the original recipe, but I think it adds flavour) and the saffron-infused water to your pan, and simmer gently for ten minutes or so, until you are left with just a small amount of flavourful sauce.

Use the ten minutes cooking time to de-seed your pomegranate. This is my least favourite part of the cooking process - not only is it quite time consuming, but I am incapable of extracting the seeds without covering myself (and everything else in my kitchen) with brightly-coloured juice**.

Cucumber and pomegranate salad


1 cucumber
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Squeeze of lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the cucumber into two lengthways and use a dessert spoon to scoop out the juicy seeded centre. Discard (or eat...) as this will make your salad too watery. Roughly dice the remaining cucumber, and place the chunks into a bowl. Add the seeds of half a pomegranate (more tedious de-seeding required!), the juice of one small lime, and chopped fresh coriander. Season to taste, and serve.

Serve the three dishes together, alongside a pile of flatbreads or toasted pittas and an assortment of dips (hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki...) for an impressive Middle Eastern feast.

*Be careful not to let your garlic get too brown, as it will develop an unpleasant acrid taste.
**I've actually started de-seeding pomegranates in my underwear - not because I am some sort of sensual domestic goddess, a la Nigella...but because I've ruined too many tops with spatters of pomegranate juice.